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Robert Mapplethorpe: 'Michael Reed', 1987 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Robert Mapplethorpe: 'Michael Reed', 1987 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Juergen Teller: Four reasons you should care about Robert Mapplethorpe

Juergen Teller has curated a new show of mega rare photographs by the great Robert Mapplethorpe. We got him to explain why you need to care

Written by
Eddy Frankel

1. He’s erotic

‘You get confronted with highly sexualised pictures, which makes you uncomfortable. But it’s different to looking at porn. Pornography is done for consumer reasons, to please somebody else, the viewer. But he does it for himself. You feel this complete power and energy, and he’s completely uncompromising with what he wants to do. And I think that’s why he’s important. Some people might think his work isn’t politically correct or whatever, but it’s purely and selfishly an expression of what he thinks. He just went out and did it.’


Robert Mapplethorpe: 'Frogs', 1984 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

2. He saw no difference between kittens and boners. In photographs. 

‘Every picture is so strongly composed, and you feel that he really wanted to make that photograph. Not everything is erotic, but he has an interest in life, people, animals and landscapes, and his interest always comes through. I think life is what life is. It has day and night, sunny and grey, and he sees similar characteristics in different things. He cared enormously about how things looked. It all has this same intensity. Within all of that there’s a lot of sensitivity and romanticism in his work too, and a lot of clarity.’ 

3. He was funny

‘He was very serious about what he was doing, but there was a sense of humour in it, for sure. Some of these pictures are nearly naff, almost cheesy! Certain advertising pictures he did are really wrong and dated. I guess he was just interested in very powerful personalities.’  


Robert Mapplethorpe: 'Madeline Stowe', 1982 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

4. He had a serious impact

‘For me he had such a big impact, at an early age. In my childhood bedroom, holding up a Patti Smith record cover, I was listening to the music and just staring at this cover, without realising who the fuck did the photograph. There’s more to it than just a photographer she’d booked who came along and took a picture of her. You feel like there was a unity between them, there was something more. That’s how I came across him, and one cannot forget how forceful and fantastic and seductive his style was. He was a genius, the way he saw things.’ 

'Teller on Mapplethorpe' is at Alison Jacques Gallery until Saturday January 7 2017.

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